Changing and embedding a new client relationship management (CRM) system in an advice firm is a daunting project.

    But as with most things in life, with proper planning the challenges can be overcome.

    We carried out a recent survey at Jigsaw Tree looking at the top five challenges advisers face when it comes to embedding new CRM technology. These were:

    • Data migration
    • Configuration of the new solution
    • Mapping new processes
    • Time taken for implementation
    • Time taken to train staff

    Let's take each of these in turn. 

    Data migration

    Data is one of the biggest assets an advice firm has but, in many cases, not all the information actually needs to be transferred to the new system. 

    Everyone knows the adage (put politely!) 'rubbish in/ rubbish out'. 

    Data needs to be checked and cleansed before it is migrated over to the new technology. Legacy data should be cleared out so you are just left with live, clean data. 

    It's worth taking the time to make sure you have a clear understanding of what is expected from the new technology provider for the migration and what is expected from you. 

    Don’t underestimate the time needed to ensure the data is clean. We would recommend planning in a minimum of two weeks of downtime at the point of 'go live' as this is the crucial time to cleanse the data.

    Configuring the new solution

    Most technology companies have a team of implementation consultants who, as the name suggests, are there to ensure the project runs smoothly. They are also there to give advice on best practice system configuration. 

    Yet while this is likely to be a service offered as part of your implementation, there is a finite amount of time they can spend with you.  An explanation of the best practice configuration will be discussed but ultimately it is up to you to ensure everything is set up correctly. Time spent here will save you heartache in the long run. 

    Mapping new processes

    When operational teams are questioned about their practices, the common reply as to why things are done a certain way is typically: “We have always done it that way.”

    Over time, this attitude can allow processes to become inefficient.

    As a result, technology transition is an ideal time to look at your processes and redefine what best practice looks like. 

    Focus on the processes carried out regularly and those which have the greatest business impact.

    This exercise should be one of collaboration and inclusion, with key business stakeholders consulted to make sure the most important processes are targeted.

    Determine how to re-engineer processes to form the basis of CRM workflows.  The emphasis should be on processes which benefit the client, as well as those are driven by regulation. Try to avoid the need for workarounds and customising certain aspects, and streamline your processes for maximum efficiency.

    Time taken for implementation

    The time taken to implement new technology should never be underestimated. 

    On the timeframe for the project, realistic and clear expectations need to be set across the business. 

    Attempting to rush through a change in CRM technology won't benefit the business in the long term. Time needs to be given to the configuration of the system, data cleansing and migration and, most importantly, staff training.  Ensure you have a proper project plan set up and everyone owns their piece of the project. 

    Time taken to train staff

    The other element you can't compromise on with this is staff training, both in terms of the budget allocated and the time required. 

    The CRM system is the cornerstone of your advice practice. If you don’t spend the time to train your staff (from administration through to advisers), your new CRM will just become a very expensive address book. 

    Training shouldn't be seen as a one-off exercise, but as a form of ongoing development.

    Use as many of the learning resources available from your technology supplier as you can.

    Video, webinar and e-learning technology have made it possible to deliver training at low or even no cost. Conferences and seminars represent further opportunities for training, and user groups are another useful alternative.

    One strategy to consider is the ‘train the trainer’ model. Rather than paying your provider to educate all users of a system, you may instead want to pick one or two individuals in the business for them to then deliver the training internally.

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